China's largest mass TV spectacle comes amid changing media behaviors.

As the Super Bowl vacuumed up media attention in the United States, it was easy to overlook an even larger spectacle happening on the other side of the world: the annual Lunar New Year celebrations in China, and the accompanying CCTV Spring Festival Gala.

Reaching more than 700 million viewers annually, the televised gala has traditionally been a must-watch event for families throughout China as they reunite for the holidays.

This year, CCTV reported that 138 million viewers watched the program via online streaming services, an increase of 41% from last year. Although only a minority of the gala audience, the figure dwarfs the entire audience for the Super Bowl via all channels, which reached 111.9 million for 2016.


As with the Super Bowl, the Spring Festival Gala prompts reflections on the changing nature of media viewership at a time when options are multiplying and the consumer has never held so much power.

Mobile video, in particular, is growing in China: revenue from mobile video apps in the country increased by a factor of 9.6 in the year ending in July 2015, according to a report by App Annie. This was correlated with growth for the iPhone 6 in China, whose larger screen encourages increased video consumption.

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An annual survey of mobile activities during the Lunar New Year conducted by the Chinese research company AdMaster found that respondents expected to use their smartphones for about 4.5 hours per day during the holiday, while they planned to spend about 12 minutes less per day on desktops and laptops, shifting the media balance toward mobile.

The survey also found that 51% of respondents planned to their smartphones for payments. The number of traditional “red envelope” payments of money made via the app WeChat exploded during the 2016 holiday to 8.08 billion, up from 1.01 billion the previous year.

As analysts continue to parse the results of second-screen competition around this year’s Super Bowl, they would do well to consider mobile media trends in China, as well.